Have you ever had a panic attack?

Have you ever believed you were going to die during the attack?

Have you ever had a hard time breathing, or you were sweating, having heart palpitations for what seems like no reason, out of the blue?

Have you ever gone to the hospital because you thought you were having a heart attack or dying only to find out it was a panic attack.

Do you want this to stop?

Panic attacks can often come from what seems like nowhere. They can hit you with intense physical symptoms and create real fears of dying. Anyone who has ever had a panic attack knows the feelings – a tingling sensation, tightness in the chest, having a hard time breathing, nausea, heart palpitations. The symptoms of a panic attack are all-consuming – sweating, trembling, chest pain, chills or sweats and dizziness. But probably the worst symptom is feeling like you are “going crazy” and even worse – a very real fear of dying.

Panic attacks happen to a lot of people

Many people struggle with panic attacks and they are common. As many as one third of adults with have a panic attack in their lifetime. That’s millions and millions of people!

The problem with panic attacks is that after you have one panic attack, you begin to fear having another. This fear of having another panic attack can intensify and actually cause another panic attack. The fear of panic attacks can result in other psychological symptoms such as fears (phobias) about going places because people are afraid of having a panic attack in public. They find themselves staying isolated more and more because of the fear.

Once this fear kicks in, so does adrenaline, which increases heart rate and elevates stress hormones.

The good news is there is treatment for panic attacks so you can stop having them.

EMDR is an effective treatment for panic attacks

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) resolves panic attacks. EMDR is a therapy that takes traumatic events that happened in the past from the long-term memory and moves those events to the active working memory (also called the short-term memory). When you focus on image of the traumatic event while the therapist uses a light bar and hand buzzers the working memory is taxed intensely and can therefore process a lot of information. When this happens, the image of the traumatic event is blurred and loses its emotional charge.

With panic attacks, the therapist may ask to to remember the first time you had a panic attack and think about the worst part of that. This is because the actual event of having the panic attack can create the trauma. Sometimes with EMDR the image will be the fear of what will happen in the future – fear of going to the grocery store; going to the cinema, fear of dying from a panic attack. Also the therapist may facilitate activating events from the past, even into early childhood, to explore any root causes. When these images and fears are activated in the working memory, the therapist works to desensitize the material. It is then reprocessed so there is no emotional charge left.

In therapy at Calgary EMDR Clinic we will explore your history of anxiety of panic and your recent experiences with panic attacks. We will then formulate a treatment plan that includes preparing you for the therapy (experiencing the light bar, hand tappers), identifying the targets for processing. Once the desensitization and reprocessing is complete we will engage in follow up. We will also provide you with tools to help you manage your mental health and overall well-being.

You still may have questions about EMDR

The whole eye movement thing seems strange. Why do you use eye movements?

The eye movements are an easy and effective way to “tax” or put pressure on the working memory. We also know that moving the eyes back and forth (called bilateral stimulation) helps desensitize material. Other strategies are used including sounds, tapping and hand-held buzzers.

Are there other ways to deal with panic attacks? Yes! Strategies such as deep breathing to regulate the nervous system and engaging in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can help with panic attacks, but these techniques do not get to root causes and change the way traumatic material is stored.

You can heal from panic attacks

If you would like to discuss how you can heal from panic attacks please schedule a consultation on our booking page. We are pleased to support you in your growth. Or you can call or text at (587) 806-4860.

man having panic attacks


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